Kattoo: Hang On to a Dream

Nebulo: Kolia

The term ‘electronic composer' never applied more perfectly than it does to Hymen artists Nebulo (Thomas P.) and Kattoo (Volker Kahl). On their respective releases, the two conjure symphonic soundtracks of kaleidoscopic scope that are best broached as cumulative wholes rather than gatherings of unrelated tracks. Hang On To A Dream and Kolia generally steer clear of pretension, though occasional bombast does seep into Kattoo's work, particularly in those moments when choral voices, strings, and horns merge into a soupy mass. Even so, there's no denying the two composers' meticulously orchestrated material elevates Nebulo and Kattoo above the electronic music-making masses.

In Kahl's disturbing travelogue, strings melodramatically unfurl and pianos elegantly tinkle amidst writhing convulsions of industrial beats and tribal percussive broil. Kattoo's deeply ‘cinematic' music alternates between vivid torture chamber scenes and placid, string-drenched settings graced by delicate melodies; Flaque (Florian Ziller) also contributes a pair of churning tracks to Kahl's fourteen without diluting the pervasive mood of post-apocalyptic dread. Hang On To A Dream is remarkable and stylistically panoramic but ambition can have its price, too: charging horns and strings in “Somber Happening” flirt with banality (thankfully an injection of drum'n'bass deflects the movement), electric guitars give “You Don't Know Me” an alternately raw and bluesy edge that's of questionable taste, and the admirably epic closer “Hang On To A Dream” occasionally teeters on the brink of orchestral excess.

If it's true that one-time visual artist Thomas P. aspires to compose film soundtracks, he should have no trouble realizing that goal if Kolia is indicative of his talent and style. By never allowing his Nebulo material to spin completely out of control, Thomas P. demonstrates laudable refinement and taste. He embeds piano lines within atmospheric constructions coloured by brightly fluttering phasing effects, hiccupping tempos, and marvelous displays of percussive sound design, such as the clanking and rustling noises that become rhythm elements in “Ant.” Like Hang On To A Dream, Kolia balances delicate calm (“Wen”) with blistering industrial roar (“Automnal”) and high-velocity beatsmithing (“Dr-Ill”). “Darkopale” presents a harrowing nightscape of relentlessly flickering swarms and drill'n'bass clatter while cranium-shattering beats violently squeal in “Nebula” and chiming melodies twirl atop grinding noise in “Siapese.” Alix and Ginormous contribute remixes too, of which the latter's delicately modulated “Darkopale” interpretation impresses most. Hymen describes Kattoo's album as “electronic chamber music for the eclectic listener” but the phrase equally applies to Nebulo's too.

April 2007